10 December 2010

Beautifully different

What is the first thing I think of when I ask what makes me "beautifully different?" Dressing for beauty and fun! I love the way I find interesting combinations of things to wear. Other people say nice things about that, too. I was wearing my shiny-threaded overcoat that has such a great drape over a long sweater and a wacky top and got some really nice compliments. It's so much fun to cheer people up just the way I like to be cheered up by seeing someone dress inspiringly. And it's a continuing positive feedback loop. I'm going to go put on something fun right now!

The kinder, gentler approach

I am revisiting a project that is terribly difficult and unpleasant on many levels, and reminds me all too much of where I was and not where I want to be. In working on that project again, I find I have to do more research to find more specifics: my organizational scheme of my book is based on a list of characteristics, for example, which I didn't actually have a copy of in my book yet. I am searching for the characteristics I remembered seeing in my earlier research but one mysteriously is not turning up on the lists in this round of discoveries. It's a puzzle. I love that part of being able to find things you need on the internet. Compared to doing research in school, Google makes it cake-eatingly easy. You just have to be creative and persistent to get the best results. But that's true for everything, isn't it?

One thing I am look for more now is other voices of people like me, people who have survived something threatening and want to set the record straight at last so it doesn't eat them from the inside out (many of us lugging household skeletons into closets suspect this is the true root of cancer, when it's not something obvious like poisoning from chemicals).

Everyone says it when they have an unpopular opinion about something (a corporation, say -- I've just read the book A Civil Action so that is weighing heavily on my mind) or someone (the sociopath in your midst) -- "I thought maybe I was going crazy."

It's a terrible feeling, thinking you are over the edge because you believe something no one around you ever wants to see or admit is that close to them, that threatening. Darkness looks you in the eye, and when you tell others, they draw back from you like you've been bitten by the vampire. And it does make you feel crazy, different, vampiric, creepy, and dark to witness it, tell the tale. But you have to or you'll suffer, like living through an earthquake and needing to talk about it for such a long time after.

I saw a documentary about Lariam, an antimalarial drug, that terrified me, saying it can cause brain lesions -- permanent brain damage! -- that induced psychosis in people. In the film, Taken as Directed, these people were devastated, their optimism gone. One said it was like seeing the devil. And we wonder when we hear about someone going crazy and shooting a bunch of people to bits, but do we ever hear whether they had recently had a course of Lariam administered, or whether they had been exposed to other extreme protocols that fundamentally changed the way their brains worked? I'm feeling that neither my daughter nor I should take it. Too dangerous. And we need less of things in our lives that make us feel like we are going crazy, not more. We can't afford to go toward darkness, even if it is an unintended side-effect of another action.

It's good to keep in mind, as I burrow back into this project again, that it's not a preoccupation with the dark and the past, which is what the quick-judging pragmatist might say. No, instead I am going toward the light, illuminating things, making things easier for the next person who knows someone like this to figure out how to spot the tell-tale traits and avoid the devastating effect someone like that can have on anyone in their vicinity.

So I'm advocating a kinder, gentler approach to things lately. I just wrote to the makers of Off and asked for a case of their clip-on mosquito repellents to give to orphanages to put by windows or anywhere they are needed. Nets are probably a good gift, too. I'll ask around.

I am being kind and gentle with myself about the reverb10 prompts, too. It's a busy time, and I'm working hard, and haven't been up to the daily prompting and blogging rhythm. That's okay, I know. But to get on the path toward catching up, the best community thing I did this year was probably continuing to help with the Garden-to-Table project at my school. Surprised I didn't say speaking at Ignite Boulder 12? Or the Thriller flash mob downtown? Those fall close on the garden's heels, I admit, but so does helping the kids in my daughter's classroom learn more about conflict resolution. It's all good.

06 December 2010

Wanna make something of it? Do it!

Today's writing prompt: The last thing I made.

Well, let's see. I made coffee just now. But you meant something lasting, right? I made a cookbook (out of a collection of two women's recipes and nutrition tips) just last week. I think it turned out well. I learned and re-learned a lot in the process. I also made crustless pumpkin pie when I went over to my in-laws' for dinner. I noticed that when I was frustrated with my progress on the cookbook project, my thoughts immediately turned to cooking. I've had a recipe out for a flourless carrot cake that looks amazing, but I refused to let myself do something that would take a lot of time when I was in the middle of my cookbook project. (Which answers the question: Did you have to clear space for the project? Why, yes, I did. It felt like the project took up space. But I let that happen. And it worked! I finished it on time for a deadline but then that fell through -- the folks who wrote it wanted to have the cookbook available at an event last Friday but the event's organizer nixed the idea, so I don't know what's happening with the printing. It is out of my hands. But I do like the way the cookbook turned out. It's a nifty little book with some good stuff in it, and I will let you know when it is available to all.)

Other things I've made recently: Matching winter scarves for my in-laws, and dinners. I've been wanting to make up songs but don't quite know how to go about it. I made soup for a soup swap recently, and want to do that again. But it is true that lately, cooking is my go-to activity when I want to create something -- and my novel is calling me to work on it more and more, too, which I am doing.

I am casting about for something to make for my writers' group. I was trying to think of something everyone might like (little carrot cakes?) and then thought: our web site. If I could have a site ready by the time we meet next week, the group would be thrilled. I just don't know if I can pull that off. But it's a good goal.

05 December 2010

Reflections: We may never have this knowledge again

That's another reason I write, to continue to respond to the prompt of my most recent post. I know I will never see things this way again. I am groping my way forward in the tule fog, the dark, the blurry view of naivete. And I'd better call it like I see it now because I will never see it this way again. I know things will change, times will change, perspectives will change with experience and exposure to new ideas and people.

So does that leave me with nothing? We have a trope: When my husband and I ask one another, "Can I bring you anything?" the other occasionally responds, "I have nothing left to hope for." Which is from a sign in Asia's failed attempt at saying: "We leave you nothing else to be desired. All your needs will be fulfilled here." But truly, I am so filled with love and gratitude for this fragile state of joy and peace at those moments that I feel I lack nothing, I have nothing to hope for beyond this. So love is the wonder and the light in my life, which happens to be the response to the reverb10 prompt and a nice seed for thought.

And while we're on the topic of wonders, I have to give a big shout-out to music! I still think the lyric is a little cheesy but I agree with Michael Franti that everyone deserves music. And with Johnny Cash, when he sang, "Get rhythm when you get the blues. A jumpy rhythm makes you feel so fine, It'll shake all the trouble from your worried mind. Get rhythm when you get the blues." For me there is truth in that. A few years ago I wondered whether I was depressed, and I am wondering that lately. But I decided to exercise. I started going to the gym three times a week. I thought I would want to swim, but I have never bonded with swimming here in this pool. Maybe it was too cold for the first five years since our rec center was remodeled and I got turned off and I should try it again, but in the meantime I stumbled back into my dance class and discovered, in a room full of people who share my love and interest in movement and dance and joy and energy, what quickly became my primary source of balance.

Now I go four times a week to dance for 45-50 minutes and cool down for another few, and I find as long as I can dance every week I feel good. I stay sane and healthy. And my goodness, there's so much to learn about committing to a gesture or a movement or a pattern, to being ready to change direction on a dime, to moving together with a group and doing your own thing all at once, to learning to move within my own levels (my lesson for this week was anything at any time can take you back to level 1, and that is just fine).

As for things I've let go of this year, the final prompt for the moment: Being an editor for other people. I just keep getting rebuffed at a certain level. It works against human nature: People don't like to be told what to do. And I love editing but I suppose I'll just have to do it for myself for now. It's like painting my house: I care almost too much to do it for anyone but me, perhaps. But I think if I commit to myself, I can go far with it! So I know what is really at the top of my wish list: A package of 10 ISBN numbers. Woohoo!

02 December 2010

Prompt of the day: What keeps me from writing?

I listen to Talk of the Nation on NPR a lot and today's, if you didn't already hear it, was about bullying. Lots of different people reported different things, one that someone had found him on facebook and apologized for long ago bullying, another who was on facebook and a bully got in touch and started bullying her all over again (horrors). One woman said she realized that she was so angry and scared all the time about being bullied that she had become a bully toward other people, always ready to go off if they didn't do what she expected. That resonated with me. And then the host read from someone's email, I think, and it described a person's path to better living after having survived the hell of bullying and the author was very apologetic for having taken all that anger and fear out on others for so long. I really felt a jolt of recognition then about things I've both struggled with and their costs, the tolls those misplaced emotions have taken in my life, on my friendships.

Another thought: I had a conversation with my mother not so very long ago, that set off such a series of ripples for her. It seemed like a trivial thing. I said, "Not everyone likes creamy food," when my mom was making something or talking about some kind of food my daughter was less than enthused about. My mother could hardly believe it! Someone who doesn't like creamy food? What? The very idea was unthinkable at first. We talked about it for days! And that conversation went on to reverberate for a while and later morphed into one about mind-reading. I said to my mother at one point, "I can't read your mind. You have to tell me what you want." And she just looked at me. Really? As if she'd never quite realized we were that different from one another, different enough to have separate perspectives on the same thing. I feel like there's something in having been habitually underestimated or underprotected as kids that makes us all so defensive and sometimes angry about not being understood, as if we feel it is part of a grand conspiracy and this present communication breakdown is further proof of our being at the ground zero of misunderstanding.

So I hope it makes sense when I say that fear of being misunderstood is a cause of procrastination for me, and yet is also one of my biggest motivators for writing down what I am thinking.

01 December 2010


Today's #reverb10 prompt is to reflect on the past year, picking a single word to encapsulate it. I came up with shipbuilding, because it feels like I'm gearing up for the next phase.